THAI - KHMER ROUGE LINKS, AND THE ILLEGAL TRADE IN CAMBODIA'S
TIMBER - EVIDENCE COLLECTED JANUARY - MAY 1995
SUMMARY: Global Witness is a London based NGO, which focuses on areas
where profits derived from environmental exploitation fund human rights
abuse. In January and February 1995, Global Witness undertook an
investigation in both Thailand and Cambodia, into the illegal trade of
timber, which largely funds the civil war in Cambodia. The evidence
obtained was compiled into the report, "Forests, Famine & War - The Key
to Cambodia's Future", published in March. The report received world
wide press coverage and wide distribution amongst delegates of donor
countries to Cambodia, NGO's and multi-lateral donor agencies.
Following international pressure, Cambodia introduced a timber export
ban which came into effect on the 1st of May 1995 - in other words, no
timber should have been entering Thailand from Cambodia after this date. Global Witness mounted a second investigation along the Thai/Cambodian
border in order to test the efficacy of the ban and the degree of
support offered by Thailand in this regard. Global Witness's findings
* Thai military officers and timber companies continue to deal
directly with the Khmer Rouge.
* Timber import permits are being signed by the Thai Interior
Minister and issued to companies trading with the Khmer Rouge.
* Timber is still entering Thailand by land and sea. Timber imports
by land are reduced due to the onset of the rainy season, these are
likely to resume during the new dry season.
* Many illegal Cambodian timber exports are made possible by
widespread corruption at all levels of the Royal Government of
* The Scale of the continuing illegal timber trade across the
Thai/Cambodia border is massive - Global Witness estimates that the
Khmer Rouge continue to earn around US$6.5 million per month from just
three of the import points visited. Total Khmer Rouge earnings from the
timber trade are approximately US$ 10 - 20 million per month.
Thai public statements on this issue contain many contradictions. However, what is clear is that:-
* Thailand is undermining reconstruction and development in Cambodia,
and international support for the elected Royal Government of Cambodia
through the ICORC process.
* By undermining the Cambodian Government timber export ban, Thailand
is in breach of its stated position that business relations with
neighbouring countries are conducted according to the laws of those
* Thailand is in breach of its obligations as a signatory of the 1991
Paris Peace Accords and is undermining the subsequent UN mission in
The International community has played a key role in the peace process
in Cambodia, with considerable investment through the UN, and more
recently through the ICORC donors process. Thailand, despite its
denials, is supporting the Khmer Rouge through the illegal cross-border
trade of timber from Cambodia, jeopardising all that has been achieved.
Global Witness, PO Box 6042, London W2 3GH Tel:+44 171 251 3900 Fax:+ 44
171 251 4531
THAI-CAMBODIA CAMPAIGN - BACKGROUND "Forests, Famine & War ...."
examined the role of the Thai and Cambodian Governments, and Thai and
other foreign businesses in the timber trade, and the effects of the
trade on the environment and the human population in Cambodia.
The investigation exposed the vast and unsustainable nature of the trade
in Cambodian timber. Despite the log cutting ban imposed by the Royal
Government of Cambodia (RGC) on January 1st 1995 Thai timber companies
were still cutting trees in their Cambodian concessions, timber was
crossing the Thai/Cambodia border on a massive scale, despite the Thai
Governments declaration that the border was closed to this trade, and
the RGC were granting logging concessions to foreign companies, contrary
to its own constitution.
The investigation confirmed that the Khmer Rouge continue to derive the
income they need to survive from the log and gems trade - and earn money
from virtually every tree cut down in Cambodia - including those within
RGC authorised concessions - generating millions of dollars every month.
"Forests, Famine & War..." examined the effects of the timber trade on
both Cambodia's environment and the human population. The Cambodian
Minister of the Environment, Mok Mareth, estimated that at the current
rate of destruction Cambodia's forests would be destroyed within five
years. Floods and droughts possibly directly attributable to
deforestation resulted in a severe failure of the 1994 rice harvest.
Global Witness investigators visited villagers in various regions of
Cambodia who were already suffering from malnutrition with little
prospect of relief until their next rice harvest, in December 1995.
THAI/CAMBODIA BORDER - MAY 1995 On January 1st 1995 the RGC imposed a
log cutting ban, and allowed an amnesty to remove already felled wood.
This amnesty expired on 30th April 1995.
Following extensive worldwide press coverage generated by Global
Witness' document, Thai Deputy Foreign Minister, Surin Pitsuwan, was
quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying "We respect the laws and
regulations of the countries we do business with, whether logging, gems
or fishery..."everything is by the rules of that country so it cannot be
said we destroyed their environment."
Global Witness undertook a further investigation during May 1995, to
test the effectiveness of the RGC timber export ban and to examine the
political will of the Thai Government to support its neighbour's
legislation. This briefing presents the findings of the investigation -
they are as follows:-
MAP TA PHUT DEEP SEA PORT, RAYONG During a visit to the port in January
Global Witness observed and filmed logs belonging to the Chao Phraya
Irrawaddy Company Ltd being unloaded from barges and stored on the
quay-side. These logs originated from Koh Kong Province, Cambodia.
On the 1st May 1995 at 7am the "MV Dimitris N", and at 2pm the tug "CIC
2 Barge Attila 3, Yawson 102", delivered a total of approximately 2,200
logs (around 11,000 m3). The voyage from Koh Kong takes 48 hours so
these shipments were conceivably legal - provided these were logs felled
before 1st January 1995.
On 3rd May 1995 at 5pm the tug "TKS 20 Barge CTI 1, CTI 8, Songsak 1"
delivered approximately 350 logs (around 1,750 m3), on 7th May at 12
noon the tug "CIC 2, Barge Diana I,II,III" delivered 787 logs (4,000 m3)
and on 8th May at 5pm the tug "Royal Ocean, Barge Seahorse 92"
off-loaded approximately 300 logs (1,500 m3).
Presuming that the "TKS 20 Barge" left Cambodia on 1st May 1995, these
last three shipments all contravened the RGC timber export ban, with at
least the tacit approval of the Thai authorities.
These findings are in stark contrast to statements by Mr Thirasak
Chaturapornprasit, the Managing Director of the Chao Phraya Irrawaddy
Company, who complained in the Bangkok Post on 1st April 1995 about the
loss of Thai timber export licenses from Cambodia. They are also in
stark contrast to Surin Pitsuwan's statement mentioned above.
KALAPANDHA HARBOUR AND KLONG YAI, TRAT PROVINCE In January 1995 Global
Witness estimated that the harbour at Kalapandha was receiving up to
6,750 m3 of rough sawn timber per week.
Currently around 10 boats per day, each carrying approximately 90 m3 of
rough sawn timber, (mainly Mai Yang and Takean) unload at the port,
totalling 6,300 m3 per week. Thus there has been no significant
reduction in this trade.
Interviews carried out with the owners of some of the 33 sawmills and
timber yards in Klong Yai provide varying reports of current trading
Vinai Duangyai and Kannika Chutikajorn of Bothongwood Ltd, Part., a
timber merchant, said that they were receiving no further supplies of
timber due to the RGC export ban. They said that they, and other Thai
timber companies would ask the Thai Government to pressure the RGC to
re-allow timber exports. They mentioned that during normal trading
operations they bribed the Cambodian Marine police Bt 70,000 (US$2,800)
for each boat load of timber, in addition to the legitimate taxes
demanded by the Cambodian Government.
In contrast, Mr Taweesak of the Wealth Equipment Co, Ltd said that he
had no problem in obtaining and importing unlimited quantities of rough
sawn timber from Koh Kong Province, Cambodia. He claimed that he had
permission from the RGC to export 100,000 m3 per year to Kalapandha.
However he stated that his sawmill currently processes only 2,000 m3 per
month. The facilities at the sawmill would suggest an ability to
increase this quantity according to demand.
Mr Taweesak said that he had no need to bribe the Cambodian Marine
What is certain is that large amounts of rough sawn timber continue to
be consumed by the timber companies in Klong Yai, supplied from Koh Kong
Province, via Kalapandha, in breach of the RGC timber export ban.
The timber from Klong Yai is transported by truck for use all over
THE BORDER FROM BAN HAT LEK - ARANYAPRATHET, THAILAND In January 1995
Global Witness identified numerous log "rest areas" along Highway 3
between Klong Yai and Nuan Sung checkpoint, south of Trat, and more
along Highway 3271 between Nuan Sung and Bo Rai, near the Cambodian
The owners of these rest areas possessed legal timber concessions issued
by the RGC but were importing logs from Cambodia, by road, despite the
Thai Government's pledge that the entire border was closed, to deny
support for the Khmer Rouge. Workers and officials in all the rest areas
visited by Global Witness confirmed that cutting of fresh trees was
continuing despite the RGC cutting ban imposed on January 1st. Several
companies admitted trade links with the Khmer Rouge: the potential
revenue for the Khmer Rouge from the port of Kalapandha and the Suan Pha
Company alone amounted to US$1 million per week.
In May 1995 Global Witness noticed a substantial reduction in the number
of logs crossing the border. Workers interviewed by Global Witness said
that this reduction was due to the fact that the roads between the rest
areas and the concessions were impassable due to the rainy season.
Timber companies admitted to direct trade links with the Khmer Rouge,
this trade is not affected by the RGC log ban.
NUAN SUNG - BO RAI, TRAT PROVINCE The Foreman of the Suan Pha Company
said that the majority of the 100,000m3 of logs in their rest area near
Nuan Sung originated from RGC concessions but admitted that a number of
these logs originated from Khmer Rouge controlled areas. He stated that
Suan Pha had a rest area twice the size of this one, in Cambodia,
covering 1,200 rai. (1 rai = 1,600m2 - so Suan Pha's Cambodian "rest
area" is 1,920,000m2 , or 474.4 acres). In January, the Suan Pha
Company was receiving 100 trucks, each carrying between 2-5 logs, per
A log truck driver employed by Suan Pha, interviewed on his way to the
sawmill in Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, said that all the logs on his
vehicle belonged to the Khmer Rouge. He told Global Witness that Suan
Pha had signed a five year concession with the Khmer Rouge, three years
of which has still to run. The only limit to importing logs into
Thailand was the 100,000 m3 quota set by the Thai Interior Ministry.
The Chao Praya Akanay Co., also located off Highway 3271, received
their most recent shipment of 20 logs from their concession in Cambodia
on 20th May. The company recently signed a two year timber concession
with the Khmer Rouge and the Manager of the company, Rossarin Rukchart,
has a very good business relationship with a senior Khmer Rouge officer
in the concession area. On 21st May Ms Rossarin and her husband/partner,
a Thai Army lieutenant (probably stationed at the Trat Marine base near
Nuan Sung), were visiting the concession area, meeting with the senior
Khmer Rouge commander to coordinate further cutting and the removal of
On 28th March 1995 the Thai Interior Minister, Sanan Khajornprasart,
signed a permit allowing Chao Praya Akanay to import 30,000 m3 of logs.
This directly contravenes the Thai border closure and the RGC log ban. Company workers stated that many other companies in the area also
possessed import permits from the Interior Ministry.
The Tung Din Dam Co. were unable to import logs due to road conditions.
Company workers again confirmed that the company buys logs from the
PONG NAM RON, CHANTABURI PROVINCE The Maka Centre Company located at
Pong Nam Ron, just off Highway 317, have just signed a two year
concession with the Khmer Rouge. The Company has paid the Khmer Rouge Bt
50,000,000 (US$2 million) to cut trees and will pay a further Bt
50,000,000 (US$2 million) to remove the timber. Although the RGC
checkpoints leading to this rest area are closed, a bribe of Bt 200
(US$8) per truck will ensure passage. Cutting is currently in progress,
but the Khmer Rouge will not permit logs to be transported due to
conflict near the concession area, near Pailin.
The Company "has no problem" transporting timber through the Thai border
Their rest area covers 50 rai (8 Ha, or 19.76 acres) and contains 3,000
Maka logs, they have a further 600 logs in a 100 rai (16 Ha, or 39.5
acres) rest area in Cambodia.
Opposite the Maka Centre Company's rest area a new rest area covering 25 rai (4 Ha, or 9.88 acres), is being cleared by another company - in
preparation for further arrivals of logs.
Timber workers in this region confirmed that other companies in the
area, including Display Tech, are continuing to cut logs in breach of
the RGC log cutting ban of the 1st January 1995 - suggesting the
intention to import these logs.
Log truck drivers in both Trat and Chantaburi provinces carry a permit,
bearing their photograph, to allow them to pass Khmer Rouge checkpoints.
They pay bribes averaging Bt 200 (US$8) per truck to pass both Thai and
RGC border checkpoints, and a further Bt 40-50 (US$1.60 - US$2) per
truck to pass police checkpoints in Thailand.
THE ROLE OF THE ROYAL GOVERNMENT OF CAMBODIA IN THE ILLEGAL TIMBER TRADE
Evidence shows that the RGC are granting massive illegal timber
concessions such as 800,000 Ha (1.98 million acres) concession (12% of
Cambodia's remaining forest area) sold to the Malaysian Samling
Corporation. These concessions are granted without recourse to the
National Assembly and therefore could be in breach of, at least, Articles 58, 59 & 90 of the country's constitution, and UN resolution
1803 concerned with the loss of permanent sovereignty over natural
resources. In addition no environmental impact assessments have been
made and little attention has been paid to reforestation.
Since the April 30th timber export ban the RGC has been making great
efforts to prevent illegal timber exports. But corruption at all levels
of the RGC Political and Military structures, both centrally and on a
local level, has in the past, and could still, severely undermine what
could be very effective forestry legislation. (This situation is more
fully explained in "Forests, Famine & War..."). The international
community is in a very strong position to insist that the RGC ensures
the efficacy of the recent timber export ban.
SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF THE TIMBER TRADE
Conflict: Revenue generated by the trade in Cambodia's timber is funding
the continuing conflict between the Khmer Rouge and the RGC. Global
Witness estimates that Khmer Rouge revenue alone amounts to tens of
millions of dollars per month.
As long as this civil war continues Cambodia will be unable to institute
any meaningful reconstruction and development.
Effects on Cambodia's rural population: Floods and drought possibly
directly attributable to deforestation have resulted in increasingly
severe failures of the rice harvest, creating widespread food shortages
Working conditions in logging companies: In both Map Ta Phut Deep Sea
Port and Kalapandha harbour, workers and sailors work in extremely
dangerous conditions. Hard hats are non-existent and near accidents are
common place during unloading by crane in Map Ta Phut, and by hand in
In saw-mills visited in Klong Yai no ear, eye or lung protection is
provided in very noisy and dusty conditions. Saws have insufficient or
no blade guards, and loading is carried out by hand without the benefit
of loading bays.
Log truck drivers, paid an average of Bt 3,800 (US$152) per month, have
only dry season employment and operate in hazardous driving conditions,
and in conflict areas. Round trip journey times range from twelve hours
to five days.
Environmental (and social) effects: The environment cannot be considered
in the context of national boundaries. The destruction of Cambodia's
forests will not only effect Cambodia. The floods and drought that are
plaguing Cambodia could, as the environment further deteriorates, also
- Border regions, denuded of forest cover will be prone to severe
erosion and resultant siltation of Thailand's rivers, loss of top
soil and micro-climatic change. - The destruction of Cambodia's natural
resources deprives that country of the ability to be economically and agriculturally self sufficient, resulting in conflict and regional
instability - which, in the long term, benefits neither Thailand or
Cambodia. - Deforestation leads to the loss of habitat for thousands of
plant and animal species which, apart from the environmental
issue, also severely affects tourism potential for both Cambodia and
CONCLUSION The RGC appears to be making sincere efforts to ban timber
exports to Thailand, despite corruption amongst local officials in Koh
Kong Province and at border check-points. This conclusion is further
backed up by recent reports in the Cambodian press of Government
attempts to impound illegal log shipments to Thailand by force. Thai
businessmen interviewed by Global Witness believe that this is due to a
desire to shift emphasis to Malaysian investment, away from Thailand. This would appear to be a political move, rather than a desire to
preserve the forests.
As the RGC ban bites, Thai businessmen are increasingly dealing with the
Global Witness believes that the Thai Government has no excuse not to be
fully informed of the intricacies of the timber trade between Cambodia
The unsustainable trade in Cambodia's timber will continue to generate
war revenue for the Khmer Rouge, unless the International Community
insists that Thailand:-
* Undertakes the investigation into Global Witness' findings by the
National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry, promised by former
Prime Minister, Chuan Leekpai on the 26th May 1995. * Clamps down
effectively on illegal business deals and operations by companies on
Thai soil. * Fully cooperates (as it says it already does) with the
RGC to enforce the RGC's timber export ban and other relevant
legislation, including the RGC's 1st January 1995 timber cutting ban.
* Thailand withstands pressure from timber companies to re-negotiate
concessions and the passage of timber from Cambodia to Thailand.
The International Community should undertake to put pressure on Thailand
directly, through relevant fora such as the UN, and through specific
legislation, such as the up-coming United States Foreign Operations Act
The International community must similarly insist that the Royal
Government of Cambodia complies with and effectively enforces its own
forestry legislation. Pressure should be brought to bear through the
ICORC process and through bilateral and multi-lateral relations, for
example the possibility of the US granting Cambodia "Most Favoured
© Global Witness, July 1995